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rooney should “respect the club” and leave.

I’ve been a United supporter since 1994 and I’ve seen Ferguson build countless squads. A lot of media furore is going on now about Ferguson declaring that Rooney wants out. Of course, hordes of people from our rival clubs are gloating. But frankly, there’s nothing to worry about.

Come on, we’re talking about Sir Alex Ferguson here, the famed gaffer who has sold Ince, Kanchelskis and Hughes in the same season, only to replace them with kids. We’ve also seen him sell of the rock-of-a-defender Stam and goal-machine Van Nistelrooy. In recent times, we’ve also seen Ronaldo leave. I was personally sad to see the former World Player of the Year leave for Madrid, but hey, life moves on at this great club.

Now, I’m a Singaporean and I have never been to Old Trafford, or stepped foot in England. The closest I’ve been to this team was to see them emerge out of Changi Airport, watch them train in the National Stadium, sit beside the legend Giggs and P.Neville in a meet-and-greet session and drove four hours from Shanghai to Hangzhou to catch them in action. I’ve stopped collecting jerseys and magazines because they just got too expensive to keep up. My only investment and sign of loyalty is to subscribe to cable TV just to watch United in action every week. And of course, every once in a while, post something that’s related to United on Facebook.

For crying out loud, 90% of United fans in Singapore won’t even be able to tell you where the Stretford End is if you showed them a picture of Old Trafford. But does it stop us from feeling for the club? I guess emotions have seeped into this harmless weekend activity, as we lend our support to a club which doesn’t really need our support.

But I’m posting this because I think United is more than just one fan. United is more than just one player. United is more than just Yanks. United is more than just one team. We’ll make it without Rooney, as we’ve made it without Beckham and Keane. We’ve even made it without Cantona – oh the reason for my love of #7, United and through passes. Look boys, we will survive! Fergie > Rooney < United.

What we must hope for now is to fetch the highest possible price for Rooney, regardless whether we spend the money or not; that’s secondary. It’d be nice to buy Akinfeev, Sneijder and Benzema with the extra cash, but honestly, it doesn’t matter. I don’t care who owns or manages the club. I don’t even care who plays for the club or if the latest jersey designs are nice. I care for my weekend dosage of entertaining and sometimes heartbreaking football. I won’t find that with other clubs, not because they play horrible football (like Liverpool) but because I do not have affections for them.

When Cantona retired, a lot more supporters (like me) were devastated. How were we going to replace such a talismanic figure? He revolutionised the way we played football – with flair and arrogance. Let the Scousers laugh at us. Let the Wastelanders mock us. Let the media make an earthquake out of this. United has and will always move on. We never look back, only forward. I couldn’t care less if Rooney retracts his words. I care more for the team. I like what Ferguson told Rooney, that he should “Respect the club”.

Gents, we’re on good ground. We have good talent coming through. Every time he was on the pitch, Chicharito looked so much more dangerous than Rooney this season. I won’t comment on unproven potential like Bebe or Obertan, but I will make an exception for Cleverly. He’s got United written all over him. He’s direct, creative and most importantly, he plays with an arrogant swagger, knowing that he can trust in his own ability.

Even the biblical adage hold true; new wine cannot fit in old wine skin. Similarly, not all old wines taste great – some are just really expensive vinegar! Let Rooney go. He will realise that there’s no other club in this world who has fans that will stick with him through thick and thin and adore him wholeheartedly. I won’t bother about his off-the-field behaviour; I will only state that if he is not keen to play for the world’s greatest club, then he should just leave. We don’t need uninterested players, but players who realise what it means to play for the shirt.

Rooney should understand one thing though, that if he wants out, he must leave the country. It’d be travesty if he joined any other English team. Rooney would make Tevez look like a hero if he swapped red for blue. That would be career suicide for him and I wouldn’t be surprised if he received death threats from the real fanatics if he tried that. Assuming he will leave us, what Rooney must do now is to play his heart out for the team whenever he’s not frozen out by Fergie, and leave with his head held high – just like Ronaldo, who incidentally was the only player who turned up for the Champions League Final against Barcelona; he wanted to win the lot again before he left. I have no ill-feelings about Ronny and I think I, like most United fans, would welcome his return with open arms. So Rooney has to learn to do this well.

At United, we’re never about one player. We will make a player but a player will never make us. I would support United even if they got relegated. It doesn’t matter. If Rooney stays, good; if he goes, good. But honestly, I don’t care. Forget about Rooney, everyone. We’re United and we’re bigger than that.

I like what I read on another United blog:

Adversity may be looking us in the eye, but we will spit in it. We may be about to take a huge emotional pummelling, but as we fall to the canvas all bloody and broken, we will look up at our detractors and enemies… And we will laugh at them. Yes, the joke will be on us, but we are galvanised by history. Things may be about to get ugly… But that’s life… …The wheels have started to turn. If he stays we will rejoice. But if he goes we will be ready to roll up our sleeves and we will build again.

We’re not arrogant, just better. Our history makes us strong, your hate makes us stronger. GGMU!

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what happened to “Goal 2010”?

Eight years ago, the Football Association of Singapore claimed that Singapore would qualify for the World Cup in 2010 and subsequently created a project “Goal 2010”, which they embarrassingly retracted after a couple of years, when they realised its near-impossibility.

It’s halfway through the FIFA World Cup and while the Final 16 have been determined, my interest for this competition has hit an all time low. People have been asking me which team I am rooting for and I replied them all the same – “Singapore”. I find it strange (and quite ridiculously, to be honest) to cheer for another country’s colours; I struggle to find the passion to follow any team’s progress and I’m surprised at how apathetic I have been toward this entire competition.

I remember submitting an article on Goal 2010 during my second year in polytechnic for a module called “News Writing”. I had the privilege of meeting and interviewing then-Tanjong Pagar United coach, Tohari Paijan. He was such a nice bloke and was extremely hospitable to an 18-year-old kid on an academic assignment. There was nothing in it for him yet he brought me along on one of the away matches – against Woodlands Wellington. I met him at Queenstown Stadium in the late afternoon and witnessed the final preparations before I hitched a ride in his car to Woodlands, went into the locker room to meet and greet the players (then Under-23 vice-captain Ratna Suffian and current national team player Daniel Bennett) and even sat on the team bench during the evening match! It was a fantastic and memorable experience, I must say.

So if you don’t mind, I thought it’d be pretty interesting to revive something that I penned two World Cups ago. I ascertained then that we were not going to make it to the World Cup in 2010 and my prophetic writing came true – I was right on the money (just like majority of Singaporeans who also found Goal 2010 an unachievable target).

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GOAL 20??
2nd April 2002 | by Joey Asher Tan

The current crop of young players, whose attitudes come under serious scrutiny, jeopardise the chances of GOAL 2010. As these are the players who will eventually take over the mantle of the national team, the fear of insufficient quality in the squad may seem much more real than it really is.

The FAS (Football Association of Singapore) has placed a somewhat unrealistic target to reach the World Cup by year 2010. The Southeast Asian lynchpin, Thailand, which consistently defeats Singapore, is lying at the bottom of their World Cup qualifying campaign, and still without a win. The struggle of Thailand only serves to mirror how long the distance Singapore must journey before qualifying for the World Cup finals.

Recently, Bora Mulitinovic claimed that he would reject the opportunity to coach Singapore. “Think about Argentina. Monday – football, Tuesday – football. In South America, they eat, sleep and drink football. It is their life,” he explains, “Then look at Singapore. It is clean and pleasant, a nice place to live in. But when you find a small patch of grass to play football on, there is a sign saying it is prohibited. That is why I wouldn’t coach Singapore. The philosophy and priorities are different”.

Indeed, his outspoken standpoint epitomises the gloomy mentality of Singaporeans – how many would actually consider a professional football career?

Tohari Paijan, coach of Tanjong Pagar United, states, “Majority of Singaporeans are Chinese, yet the S-League is dominated by Malays. We must convince the Chinese community to consider a career in football”. He believes Singapore can reach the World Cup, but not in year 2010. “The youth are not convincing enough; all they want is fame. Singapore’s young players have no aim and no ambition; they must ask themselves what they want in life. There are simply too many distractions for them”, declares Paijan.

R Suriamurthi, coach of the Under-16 squad, shares similar views with Paijan, “Times have changed. Back in my time, we eat, sleep, and breathe football, and even train up to five hours a day, sometimes training even three times a day. We just want to play football”. He compares this with the youth of today’s football, “Now training is just one and a half hours, that’s all the football they do. After that, we have no control over them – their diet, their sleep – we have absolutely no chance to monitor them at all. The youths think they have everything. It’s not like Alice in Wonderland; you don’t attain skills overnight”.

There are many things beyond a coach’s control. They have no say over policies and procedures. “The education system in Singapore is great, but this system is not suitable for footballers”, Suriamurthi explains, “There’s simply not enough time for training. My players also have to worry about homework and exams. It’s very stressful for them. Some of them also have girlfriends, handphones – and all these are distractions”.

Paijan states again, “Singapore lacks the proper infrastructure. Look at the condition of the pitch. Where is the groundwork?” He also questions the mindset of those players who don the national jersey, “Players must be willing to die for the team. They must put their heart and soul into the team. But where is their sense of belonging?”

Visions, goals, and targets – all these are values that must remain constant. “Jan Poulsen’s contract expires in two years. If a new coach comes in, he will want to run everything in his own different ways”, Paijan elaborates, “If we get a Brazilian coach, will we play samba soccer? If we get an Argentine coach, does that mean we will play tango football?” He frustrates, “Everyone has solutions, but the problem remains unsolved. Singapore is not willing to sacrifice her resources”.

Furthermore, Singaporeans must stop comparing the S-League to the English Premier League. This is simply because we do not have world-class players and excellent infrastructure. In Paijan’s words, “There’s no fight; the English Premier League is light years ahead of the S-League”.

Money will not buy a championship. Two world record transfer fees were splashed out for Luis Figo and Zinedine Zidane, but Real Madrid is now languishing in 14th position in the Spanish Primera Liga. That is precisely why Paijan places his faith in the youth policy. Tanjong Pagar United have since nurtured highly-rated young players in the mould of Ratna Suffian and Daniel Bennett.

On top of talent and technical ability, Tohari Paijan and R Suriamurthi also stress the magnitude of attitude. Tohari’s players echo his opinions; Ratna Suffian, vice-captain of the Under-23 squad, asserts, “There is a lot of talent out there, but attitude is much more important than talent. Discipline is also crucial for a player’s development”.

Daniel Bennett, who shone in the recent exhibition matches against Liverpool and Manchester United, also reinforces Ratna’s views, “Without attitude, talent is nothing”. Bennett, who qualifies to play for the Singapore team, is an exceptional talent. It is imperative that Singapore does her best to hang on to this colossal asset. A true-blue homegrown player, he steadily rose through the ranks of Tanjong Pagar United’s youth academy. “Robert Lim discovered me in the Milo Cup, and he brought me to Tanjong Pagar”, Bennett recalls.

All we need is a just one good young player to rise up each season. If the S-League can unearth a Ratna Suffian or a Daniel Bennett every season, then there will be light at the end of the tunnel. The Singapore team needs match winners; one Indra Sahdan Daud is simply not enough.

Get the infrastructure right, keep Jan Poulsen in Singapore for a long time, invest heavily in the football academies and centres of excellence, look out for promising talent in the S-League, and most importantly, correct the players’ ailing attitudes, and only then, Singapore’s dream of the World Cup finals will be realised much sooner than later.

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